Is Stealing Illegal? What you should know about the secret sex act

Sex & Relationships

March 15, 2023 | 4:14 p.m

A man in the Netherlands has become the first person in the country to be convicted of ‘stealthing’.

Assailant Khaldoun F., 28, found himself in front of Dordrecht District Court after being accused of secretly removing his condom while having sex with a woman last summer, the NL Times reported.

The woman had agreed to have sex with a condom – but F. took it off without her knowing while the couple allegedly made out before intercourse.

He pleaded guilty and was charged with coercion but was acquitted of rape charges.

F. was sentenced to three months probation and a fine of 1,000 euros on Tuesday.

The psychological and physical consequences of “stealthing” are obvious to the victims, but what remedies are there for those accused of the insidious act of sexual violence?

For victims of stealthing, the consequences are obvious, such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and psychological trauma. But what remedies are there for those accused of this insidious and manipulative sex act? It all depends on who you ask and where the transgression took place.

Read on to learn more about the history and legal debate surrounding stealthing.

Stealthing is when a person removes or tampers with a condom without the consent of their sexual partner.
Getty Images

What is stealth?

Stealthing occurs when a person fools their partner into believing that they intend to use a condom during sex before removing it or refraining from using it without their consent and knowledge. The fraudulent act is considered by experts to be an act of forced unsafe sex.

The act was first defined in a 2017 Yale University study, which reported cases of the “rape next door” tactic, which is increasingly being experienced by both women and gay men. The newspaper also cited the existence of a worrying online community that believes it is a man’s right to “spread his seed” and encourages them to “secret” their partners.

Is stealthing illegal in the US?

California became the first state to outlaw the sexual act in 2021, though it’s not considered a criminal offense.

The measure amended the state’s civil code, adding the law to the state’s definition of sexual violence. The amendment clarified that victims can sue offenders if a condom is removed without verbal consent. In many cases, a defendant convicted of theft can be held liable for financial damages.

California Democratic Rep. Cristina Garcia originally advocated making it a crime in 2017 after the Yale study was published.

The Erotic Service Providers Legal Education and Research Project backed Garcia’s bill and said it could allow sex workers to sue customers who remove condoms.

Meanwhile, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Wisconsin have proposed similar bills.

In 2017, New York Senator Diane J. Savino first drafted a bill that would allow a person to sue their partner for “unauthorized removal and tampering with a sexual protective device.”

California became the first and only state to ban stealthing in 2021.
Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

However, the law was never passed and is currently pending in committee.

Legislators in Congress have also been pushing to criminalize stealthing for several years without success. Recently, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Norma J. Torres and Ro Khanna introduced two bills designed to help protect victims of stealing.

The Consent is Key Act would encourage states to pass their own laws allowing victims of stealing to seek civil damages by increasing funding for federal domestic violence prevention programs in those states. And the Stealthing Act of 2022 would specifically categorize stealthing as a form of sexual violence and create a federal civil right of action for survivors to seek damages.

Does stealth count as rape?

The question of whether or not stealthing counts as rape is at the center of the discussion.

As shown in the original Yale study, there are some – particularly pro-stealers – who say the act does not reach the level of rape. But researchers of sexual violence strongly believe that stealthing should be considered rape because it involves issues of sex and consent – and places like Australia, England and Wales have legally listed it as such.

In 2017, a Swiss court convicted a man of rape after he stole his partner, concluding that the victim would have refused sex had she known the condom would not be used.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers contend that stealthing falls in a gray area somewhere between consensual sex and rape, vaguely considering it a form of sexual assault or violence.

Where else in the world is stealthing banned?

Stealthing is restricted in several countries around the world including England, Wales, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore and Australia.

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